The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

EA vs. The People: Round 2

UFC set to feature loot boxes despite consumer uprising

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November was the momentous month that it promised to be, though not in the way we expected, with the highly-anticipated Battlefront II a constant fixture in the headlines — just for all the wrong reasons…

In case you’ve been living under a death star-sized rock for the last few weeks, I’m of course talking about the drama surrounding EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II, the launch of which was met with outrage, protest and significant mainstream media coverage.

If you’re a huge Star Wars fan, I’m sure you felt the full force of the dark side as ‘loot box-gate’ cast a shadow over a title that many thought could not only further augment the successful reboot of the legendary film franchise, but even contend for game of the year.

Flickr: BagoGames

Flickr: BagoGames

Having said that, it might be a shade foolish to presume that EA wouldn’t somehow hamper the player experience; this company has a proven track record when it comes to squeezing every penny out of its customers.

The one upshot of this horror show was the resounding protest worldwide, with the loot box and microtransaction phenomenon being investigated as a form of ‘online gambling’ by the Hawaiian state; Belgium is even on the verge of banning these transactions completely.

You’d think EA might have learned a thing or two after this scandal given that a game which was designed to be a cash-cow conversely resulted in their stock dropping by 8.5 per cent as November drew to a close: a loss approximated to be $3.1bn in value. Well, guess again…

The next big release scheduled on EA’s docket is UFC 3, a series that, with the increasing popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has gained traction with each instalment.

The previous game had hyper-realistic graphics, but the combat was buggy to say the least — though the animations made for a good source of amusement. In short, there was room for improvement and enough interest from die-hard fans.

Unfortunately, if you’re one of those hoping that UFC 3 might be the iteration to break real ground, that hope might be short-lived. As opposed to truly considering the feedback from Battlefront II, EA are about to deal another blow, with loot boxes set to make a return whilst the storm hasn’t even begun to settle.

The scenario is very familiar: money can be used to pay for additional packs which, in this case, contain attribute boosts that mean individual members of your Ultimate Team can end up being the equivalent of if Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey had a child, who went on to be trained by Mohammed Ali and the Hulk.

The infamous phrase ‘pay-to-win’ resounds once again and louder than ever given the audacity of EA’s decision to stick by loot boxes. November’s backlash had the potential to generate a true gaming revolution: a return to the simpler times, when all you had to do to play a game was buy it, as opposed to paying more after the fact in order to get the complete experience.

Instead, they’ve resigned themselves to walking head-on into an uppercut that risks further audience alienation; they’ve already recorded the most downvoted Reddit post in history — let’s see how deep a hole they can dig themselves.